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Left in the Lurch

A restaurant manager in Kokomo, Indiana, had an employee who failed to show up for work. This left him wondering about the phrase left in the lurch. It probably derives from an old game similar to backgammon called lourche, the object of which is to...

Episode 1547

Cabin Fever

The adjectives canine and feline refer to dogs and cats. But how does English address other groups of animals? Plus, cabin fever has been around much longer than the current pandemic. That restless, antsy, stir-crazy feeling goes back to the days...

Episode 1546

Singing Sand

Cat hair may be something you brush off, but cat hair is also a slang term that means “money.” In the same way, cat beer isn’t alcoholic — some people use cat beer as a joking term for “milk.” And imagine walking on a...

Episode 1535

Beside Myself

The new Downton Abbey movie is a luscious treat for fans of the public-television period piece, but how accurate is the script when it comes to the vocabulary of the early 20th century? It may be jarring to hear the word swag, but it was already at...

Episode 1518

One-Armed Paper Hanger

The emotional appeal of handwriting and the emotional reveal of animal phrases. Should children be taught cursive writing in school, or is their time better spent studying other things? A handwritten note and a typed one may use the very same words...